Post Brothers sells an apartment complex it owns for the first time – and investors lined up to buy it; An investigative reporter reaches into the black box of Philadelphia sheriff’s sale records and pulls out less than he hoped for – but he did find hoagies; A Downtown Germantown shopping street is in line for a makeover, and the neighbors are invited to contribute ideas; and Tom Ferrick warns that the one-two punch of AVI and the School District’s “doomsday budget” could send middle-class parents to the ‘burbs once again:
The Greater Philadelphia region’s core is expanding, and the Philadelphia City Planning Commission yesterday released two new blueprints for strengthening it and solidifying its growth.
At a Center for Architecture ceremony that doubled as the graduation exercise for the latest Citizens Planning Institute class, the commission officially released the fourth and fifth district plans completed as part of the commission’ comprehensive citywide master plan, Philadelphia2035.
The plans cover the Central and University/Southwest planning districts, which together cover the whole of what the commission calls the “metropolitan center.” That center has grown both in population and in physical size since the last comprehensive plan was released 50 years ago: it now extends beyond the old “river to river and Vine to Pine” definition to encompass the area from Girard Avenue on the north to Washington Avenue on the south, plus University City in West Philadelphia.
Laura Spina, the Planning Commission’s project manager for the Central District plan, noted that the metropolitan center now takes in 3,800 acres of land, double its former size. It added 18,000 residents to its ranks since 2000, a 12 percent increase, and its workforce is skewing younger, with workers ages 20 to 44 now making up more than half the total. It also added 30,000 jobs in the last ten years, most of them in University City, whose “eds and meds” have been expanding at a rapid clip.
According to the Planning Commission, the metropolitan center accounts for 51 percent of all jobs in the city of Philadelphia. Spina said the region’s center would continue to maintain its dominant position in the city’s economy. “We forecast an additional 100,000 people and 40,000 jobs in the city by 2035, with most of those jobs in the metropolitan center.”
Alan Greenberger, deputy mayor for economic development and chair of the Planning Commission, praised the plan for “helping us make smarter decisions about land use with your input.” He noted that in contrast to past practice, both the comprehensive plan and the district plans have been developed in-house by Commission staff in consultation with city residents, including those trained by the Citizens Planning Institute.
The American Planning Association gave the Planning Commission its 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for Best Practice for the Philadelphia2035 planning process.
The event also acknowledged the role the private sector plays in realizing plan goals. That came in the form of a presentation by Jim Pearlstein of Pearl Properties.
In his remarks, Pearlstein noted a profound transformation in the Center City rental real estate market since his firm entered it in the late 1990s. From 2000 to 2010, he said, his firm mainly acquired older, fully occupied buildings of lower quality. Even though demand for rental housing exceeded supply, there was not a high level of interest in investing in new construction and almost no involvement from national institutional investors.
All that has changed since, he said. “There’s a strong national urban movement. We’re headed to a time of unprecedented development. Philadelphia’s now on the radar screen of national institutional investors.” Similarly, Pearl has shifted focus to new construction with buildings like The Sansom.
Pearlstein also praised the city’s “incredible leadership” in the development field, specifically mentioning Greenberger, Center City District President and CEO Paul Levy and Drexel University President John Fry.
In the American imagination, the words “affluent” and “suburb” are joined at the hip. Suburbia is where you go once you’ve arrived – the place of plenty and of pleasant living. Of course, the suburban reality has long been less simple than that: most of our large cities have downmarket as well as upmarket suburbs.
But what they haven’t had, at least not to any large extent, is real poverty. In the last decade or so, that’s changed. Poverty in suburbia is now increasing at a faster clip than it is in the cites, and this year, for the first time ever, the number of Americans living below the poverty line in suburban locales outnumbers those living in cities.
The rise in suburban poverty predates the Great Recession, which accelerated its growth. That growth has caught suburban officials and service providers alike somewhat flat-footed, and it has made attending to the needs of low-income suburbanites harder as well. That’s because the spatial arrangement of suburbia and its infrastructure leave many poor residents more isolated than they would be in city neighborhoods and thus less able to draw on the resources of neighbors who could lend a hand.
While fans of traditional cities might be excused a bit of schadenfreude for the suburban municipalities whose fortunes have declined, we should refrain from gloating, for the phenomenon is as much connected to larger economic trends as it is to any inherent advantage or disadvantage of city or suburb. Besides, city folk might be able to help their suburban comrades figure out how to address the needs of a group their communities weren’t built to handle – and increase intrametropolitan cooperation in the process.
This new construction resides on a quiet residential street right of Frankford Avenue in East Kensington. The former vacant lot, located at 2133 E. Letterly Street, had a slow start, but will soon be a new three-story single-family home.
Back in 2006, this was just another empty Kensington lot with a violation in regards to vacant property standards. Then in May of 2011, Scope Homes Inc. purchased the 880-square-foot lot for only $12,100. Architect Paul Drzal LLC received zoning permits for a three-story attached home with bay windows in October of 2011. Several months later, Licenses and Inspections issued the new construction permit. In late May, contractors installed the heat pump.
Based on the rounded bay windows, it may be safe to say the final structure will have a more traditional look as compared to the vibrant, hipster-to-be square homes that are popular in the area. Even without accents of lime green or Tiffany blue, the three-story home stands out by towering over its neighbors. There is another odd thing about the home: the front door doesn’t face the street, so we may be looking at a side entrance.
With the framework still going up, it is still too early to predict the listing price. Similar homes can go all the way up to $399,900; meanwhile, you can still find a single-family home in this neighborhood for under $300,000.
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We hadn’t been by the site of the late, lamented Lite Bite diner at 3rd and Vine streets in Old City in a while, and we had promised to keep you abreast of its progress. So we swung by earlier today and are pleased to report that it’s all but finished.
The almost-all-new structure at 263 N. 3rd Street, designed by Group G, engages in a bit of architectural sleight-of-hand. Its 3rd Street facade, which incorporates the granite lintels of the one-story diner’s old building, looks like a slightly taller and plainer version of its 19th-century neighbors.
But turn the corner onto Vine Street and you’re presented with a frankly contemporary building, complete with rectangular metal-faced window bays and Juliet balconies whose French doors have no mullions. Of which speaking, the mullions in the building’s windows appear purely decorative, adding just a little 19th-century touch to the whole structure.
Licenses and Inspections isn’t amused by this detail: it cited the building at the end of April for windows, doors and a storefront that are not in compliance with historic district standards.
We hope this isssue is rectified to the city’s satisfaction, for the new condo does play well with its Old City neighbors overall and puts a blighted site back to good use. It appears that all five of the residential units have been sold, going for $300,000 each. We have no word yet on whether the 1700 square feet of retail space on the building’s street floor has been spoken for.